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It's not Bernie Sanders' fault he destroyed 25 years of friendship

Amy Shouse is an LA-based writer whose work has appeared in places like the Los Angeles Times, LA Weekly, Playboy, DAME, Purple Clover, The Huffington Post, Take Part and Forbes.

We were friends for 25 years, and then the 2016 election season started

All of this is based on a true story.

On a more composed day, my friend Andy will say Hillary Clinton is a despicable party hack and then mansplain about how she and her political cronies have rigged the system to ensure that she gets the Democratic nomination. On a bad day, he’ll assert that her husband’s receipt of a blow job reflects her own moral fiber, and then he’ll follow up that creative correlation with something charming, like it’s time to start vomiting in her general direction.

In other words, my friend is really, very, super-duper un-fond of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

His friends hate Hillary too. They, like him, have a lot of deeply held beliefs about the type of person she truly is (they are totally on to her). They know, deep in their hearts, that she is worse than Hitler, a vile pig, a redundancy of mankind, a slippery eel with sharp teeth, a snake, a thief, a dirty trickster and a cheater. They think she’s a piece of shit who should be kicked in the balls and sent straight to jail, where she should stay, rotting, forever. They agree on many things about Hillary Clinton, and they all agree that their top priority is not decorum. As a matter of fact, lack of decorum is their prevailing motto. Well, that and "fuck her!"

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Still, a true story.

The thing about Andy is that he possesses a great amount of passion. In the more than 25 years that I’ve known him, we’ve spent countless hours engaged in lively dialogues and debates, discussing topics that have mattered to both of us. Stuff like social justice, the genius of Prince, of Elvis Costello and our mutual admiration for people like Saul Alinsky, Kurt Vonnegut and Martin Luther King. We’ve counseled each other through the deaths of each other’s parents, approved of each other’s partners and laughed our asses off at the smallest and biggest things.

To attempt to describe the depth of our kindred spirits feels futile. To say that our like-mindedness was the glue that held us together for over two decades is an understatement. Both of us have moved over the years, but we always stayed in contact, totally secure in the fact that even though we live in different cities and don’t talk all that often, we’d always be close.

Then the 2016 election happened.

From the start, Andy and I had our chosen candidates. I was for Hillary, and he felt the Bern. Since we’ve always shared a similar worldview, it didn’t matter one bit that we were rooting for different people. We may have been on opposite sides of the fence, but eventually we’d end up in the same place, relieved that abortion would remain legal.

It was Facebook that changed things completely. My friend went from enthusiastic Bernie supporter to aggressive, foaming-at-the-mouth Hillary hater. The switch from critical to nasty happened quite quickly. Each day my friend Andy posted memes and articles about the horrors of Hillary, and as time wore on, the intensity, paranoia and creepiness of the posts increased.

Andy is a Bernie Bro, but he doesn’t know it. He’s white, educated and a self-proclaimed “Berner” who is fond of using hashtags like NeverShillary, HillaryForJail, Khillary, HillNo and HilLIARy, among others. He subscribes to the usual and some not-so-usual beliefs about Hillary Clinton that most Bernie Bros spout — she’s a corporate shill, she’s beholden to Wall Street, her insane hunger for personal power has led her to murder innocent children, she’s a warmonger, a liar and a cheater, and if elected, she’ll destroy the world because she’s in love with fracking.

Everyone has a right to their opinion, I’d think. It may be weird that Andy correlates nuclear mushroom clouds and Hillary Clinton, but he’s entitled to express his anger and his political theories. I may not agree with these theories, and I may be starting to think he’s off his rocker, but who am I to get all judgey? Who am I to rain on his parade?

Just as my friend has gone through a transformation during the course of this election cycle, I’ve experienced an awakening of my own. What once felt insidious, hard to describe, abstract — why is this so disturbing? — became crystallized when I saw my friend Andy and his pals gang up on another woman on Facebook. The experience reminded me of that horrified feeling that comes along with overhearing someone you thought you knew telling a racist joke at a dinner party. Or how revealing it is when a friend treats a waitress crappily or you inadvertently see them flipping someone off while driving — it’s a peek behind the curtain, a chance to discover who someone really is.

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My reluctant discovery happened when one of his other female friends commented on a thread that was anti-Hillary (some meme with a photo of Hillary, teeth bared, eyes buggy, with the words “murderer,” “hawkish,” “innocent children” in bold). The woman sounded rational, made some points about the need to find common ground. Her style and tone were conciliatory, even passive. She simply disagreed with what was being said.

I then watched, from the virtual sidelines, as my friend Andy and his friends interacted with her. She was unhinged, they said. She needed to do her homework. Andy mostly stuck with a combination of patronization, condescension and veiled insults. His friends followed his lead, all agreeing when he said she was naive, brainwashed, didn’t have her facts straight and was defensive because she couldn’t handle any criticism aimed at that corrupt bitch, Hillary Clinton.

When I clicked on the Facebook “unfriend” button, I felt happy and relieved. I’d definitely felt my blood boil when my friend Andy and his Facebook cohorts blamed, shamed, accused, dismissed and insulted me the few times I tried to throw my two cents into the conversation. But the level of vitriol, the depth of the hatred toward Hillary Clinton, often left me dumbfounded, stopped me in my tracks.

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I won’t miss my friend Andy. He may not know he’s a Bernie Bro, but I do. I feel unexpectedly grateful to him for reminding me that misogyny is alive and well and thriving. It’s a relief to acknowledge that there is still so much more work to be done. The expression “examine what you’re willing to tolerate” has never been more applicable, relevant and necessary. I’m keeping my eyes peeled and my heart curious, but I’m dumping the blatant bullies who cross my path along the way. I’m aware that the silent sisterhood is growing louder, and if the best woman wins, well that, in my opinion, would be yuuuge.

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

We were friends for 25 years, and then the 2016 election season started
Image: Foxy Hipster/Etsy

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